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Premises Liability in Condominium Associations

By Jennifer L. Alexander, Esq. and Steven Mlenak, Esq. July 23, 2013 Posted in Community Association Law

A recent article in The New York Times claims that the New Jersey market for condominium complexes is heating up, and with the increase in development comes an increase in consumer interest. One thing to keep in mind when exploring condo living is the safety of the premises, and the state laws that govern liability and responsibility in the condo itself, as well as the grounds surrounding the building. Condo association lawyers in New Jersey caution current and prospective owners to ensure their safety and minimize the potential for injury to residents and guests alike.

            In general, legal liability is imposed by the courts or by existing laws onto any person or association responsible for the damages sustained by another party, if those injuries were sustained due to the property owner’s negligence in maintaining the premises or keeping it in a safe condition. In premises liability law, the extent of responsibility assigned to the condo association is dependent on whether the person who caused the injury was an invitee, a trespasser, or a licensee. An invitee is one who has been asked onto the property by someone who lives in the association. A trespasser is someone who has no right to enter the property, and a licensee has a right to enter the property for his own purposes, such as a meter reader or a maid.

The condo association’s responsibility lies in ensuring the safety of both guests and tenants—maintaining security features, performing routine inspections of the grounds and common areas, and repairing any unsafe conditions. If violence caused by an intruder results in harm to another person on the premises, it is possible that the injured party can seek legal action against both the intruder and the association for failing to provide adequate security.

Liability shifts in the case of violence if the assailant is an invited guest on the premises. If a guest of one of the condo unit owners engages in a fight, the unit owner must take responsibility for the actions of the person he has invited. He has violated his responsibility to keep the environment within the complex safe from violence and criminal activity. Even if the fight occurs in a common area of the complex—a swimming pool or shared lawn—the association is not liable for any injuries caused by a drunken guest who gets out of hand. The association has a responsibility to keep the common areas safe and well maintained, but they do not have a responsibility to vet the people condo unit owners choose to invite.

As developers roll out plans for new riverfront condominium units, and buyers make bids on incomplete floor plans, New Jersey condo association attorneys say that involved parties must keep in mind the responsibility a condo owner has to his clients. If the association leader is unable to provide his tenants with a safe, secure location, he is violating the law.

The condo association attorneys at New Jersey-based law firm Griffin Alexander, P.C., have experience dealing with all aspects of condominium laws, and offer legal counsel and representation to condominium association clients who have had crimes committed or injuries sustained on their properties.

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